Choose two categories of excuses and explain why you think they are valid and justified as criminal defense or not

Choose two categories of excuses and explain why you think they are valid and justified as criminal defense or not.

In law, an excuse is a defense to criminal charges that is different from exculpation–pardon. “To excuse” means to obtain an exemption for a group of persons who share similar attributes from a likely liability.” To justify means to vindicate or show the justice in the specific act. Usually, the society justifies the motives regulating some acts or their repercussions, and distinguishes those where approving of the behavior is impossible though some excuse may be indiscernible in the defendant’s behavior for instance that the excused was suffering from insanity (Berman, 2003). Clearly, a justification describes the inherent quality of the act, whereas an excuse underpins the status or capacity in the accused. Exculpate is to free a person from culpability after they have caused loss or damage and to represent it in a judgment that acquits or mitigates sentencing in the criminal law or reduces or extinguishes the liability to compensate to the victim in the civil law.

Two categories of excuses in criminal defense are discussed in this essay:

Defense of infancy: This is related to the doctrine of public policy or parens patriae. In the context of criminal law, each state will consider the socio-fabric constituents of each society and the evidence available of the age at which antisocial behavior is prevalent (Berman, 2003). Some societies are lenient towards the young and inexperienced and will, avoid exposing them to the criminal law systems before all other avenues of response have been exhausted. Consequently, some societies indulge the policy of doli incapax and exclude liability for all its acts and omissions that would otherwise have been criminal up to a specified age. Afterwards, a rebuttable presumption may be applied against the use of criminal sanctions except in more serious cases. In other states, discretion lies in the judge or prosecutors to determine whether the child understood the commission of the wrong.

Defense of insanity: Where a person is a danger to himself and to the society at large but there is lack of his responsibility through lack of understanding, punishment is unjustifiable. Punishment can be justified, morally, only if the person understood that what was done was wrong and accepts the judgment of society as part of the process of expiation and rehabilitation. The state consequently accepts the person as being in need of care, and offers or requires medical treatment instead of subjecting such people to the stress of having to undergo a trial as to liability. Settled insanity is a permanent condition which can be treated as an insanity defense in the US. Automatism works when the defendant mind was not in control of the body’s movement at the relevant time and that this loss of control was not foreseeable.


Berman, M. N. (2003) Justification and Excuses, Law and Morality, Col. 53, No. 1 Duke Law Journal